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Congressional staffers announce effort to unionize on Capitol Hill

The Congressional Workers Union announced their plan a day after Pelosi said she would offer "full support" if staffers decided to unionize.
Image: The U.S. Capitol on Jan. 31, 2022.
The U.S. Capitol on Jan. 31, 2022.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A group of congressional staffers announced Friday that they plan to organize a union for aides who work in lawmakers' offices and for committees on Capitol Hill.

In a statement, the Congressional Workers Union said that they had been organizing as a volunteer group over the last year and are now announcing their plans to unionize "in solidarity with our fellow workers across the United States and the world."

"While not all offices and committees face the same working conditions, we strongly believe that to better serve our constituents will require meaningful changes to improve retention, equity, diversity and inclusion on Capitol Hill," the group said. "That starts with having a voice in the workplace."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expressed support for such an effort on Thursday. Her spokesman, Drew Hammill, said in a tweet, "Like all Americans, our tireless Congressional staff have the right to organize their workplace and join together in a union. If and when staffers choose to exercise that right, they would have Speaker Pelosi’s full support."

Earlier Thursday at her weekly news conference, Pelosi said that she had recently backed the unionization at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Last week, a majority of employees at the House Democrats' campaign-fundraising arm voted to form what was described as the Democratic Party’s largest collective bargaining unit. Employees at the Democratic National Committee also announced last month that they planned to unionize.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday that he also would support Senate staffers unionizing.

"Leader Schumer believes that hard-working Senate staff have the right to organize their workplace and if they chose to do so, he would support that effort," a spokesperson for the leader said.

It’s not exactly clear how this would work, and it would likely require legislation. It’s also not clear if it would apply to both sides of the aisle, or if the union would only apply if Democrats controlled the majority.

The workplace environment on Capitol Hill has been in the spotlight recently because of a popular Instagram account called "Dear White Staffers," in which congressional staffers have been anonymously sharing their experiences working for lawmakers.

The union noted Friday that a survey released last month by the Congressional Progressive Staff Association found that 91 percent of staff want more protections to give them a voice at work. Nearly 40 percent of the 516 House and Senate staffers who responded to the poll, Roll Call reported, said they had taken out loans to cover everyday living expenses.